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Food and Beverage

Good PR Averts the Sriracha Apocalypse

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For L.A. cool kids, the hottest ticket in town this weekend was a tour of the Sriracha hot sauce factory in Irwindale, California, which kicked off its grinding season with an open house (and much fanfare).

There, the company’s once-reclusive and sometimes-combative CEO David Tran greeted guests amongst red, green and white balloons next to an Instagram-ready cardboard cutout of himself.

Tran didn’t just set up a party to combat his company’s recent problems stemming from a bad reputation and an insurmountable odor: he opened the doors and let the world smell his spices.

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NYC Celebrity Chefs Hold Court During U.S. Open’s Taste of Tennis Week

Celeb Chef Tennis Players Behind Net FinalThis year Taste of Tennis has grown into a feast, expanding from a one-night culinary party into a week of food experiences leading up to the U.S. Open, which starts today. Indeed, associations between food and tennis have evolved greatly since the Seinfeld episode where George Costanza was caught on camera, face smeared by an ice cream sundae, while eating at the National Tennis Center’s food court during the Grand Slam tournament.

The 15th annual Taste of Tennis gala was the signature offering, featuring small plates prepared by several top local chefs, musical entertainment along with appearances by elite tennis players and celebrities. Among the surrounding events was the Celebrity Chef Tennis Challenge, held at the Midtown Tennis Club. The round-robin style mixed doubles tournament paired chefs and restaurateurs with local players. At another fete, Party with the Pros, guests enjoyed food, signature cocktails and live music, while they mingled with top names in tennis.

We spoke with Penny Lerner, CEO of AYS Sports Marketing, the event management company that organizes Taste of Tennis, about the strategy behind the new weeklong ‘food fusion’ program, while we sampled the Celebrity Chef Tennis Challenge event. Below are takeaways.

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Food Companies Using Their Farming Connections To Tackle Big Problems


Lost amid a good deal of the talk about the wave of unaccompanied immigrant children who have crossed the southern border into the US are the children themselves and the circumstances that drove them to take a lonely, frightening and perilous journey on their own.

Coffee company Kenco is using some of its marketing effort to talk about its work in Honduras to counter the deadly gang culture that has overtaken San Pedro Sula and other areas around that country. They’ve created the clip above to talk up the program, “Coffee vs Gangs,” that will teach 20 Honduran children how to be coffee farmers. And they will publish regular updates to let people know about the progress the selected kids are making.

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Burger King Learns That People Are Not Interested In Healthy French Fries

 

Back in September, Burger King introduced Satisfries, a low-fat version of their French fries. Not even a year later, two-thirds of Burger King restaurants are phasing out the “healthy” alternative. Darren Tristano,EVP of Technomic, a food industry consultancy, tells Today that people are looking for indulgence when they go to Burger King. And even though YouGov BrandIndex found that the BK brand got a bump from the healthy offering, it wasn’t long-term.

One reason the fries didn’t succeed is price. Preparing two different kinds of fries adds costs for the restaurant. But secondly, and probably more importantly, people don’t give a flying fig about eating healthy fries. Bring on the greasy stuff, the ketchup and the mayo because when it comes to fries, it’s no holds barred.

Which isn’t to say that people don’t want fast food chains to offer a healthy alternative. McDonald’s catches heat all the time for being unhealthy, and has added fruit and salads to its menu to answer criticism.

The issue seems to be the menu choice BK made for its attempt at being health-conscious. We’d propose that people aren’t sure a “healthy” French fry is an actual thing.

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Kellogg and Special K Hope to Gain Profits by Losing the Weight Loss Message

special-k-cerealsWe’re all accustomed to the Special K ads that traditionally hit the airwaves during the fall and winter, urging us to stave off seasonal weight gain by eating cereal instead of huge meals or sweets, with taglines like: “What will you gain when you lose?”

Well, it seems Kellogg is about to answer its own question, but from a marketing standpoint.

Kellogg Co. CEO John Bryant said during an earnings call last Thursday that reduced-calorie messaging no longer resonates with consumers, referencing weaknesses with other similar food categories like diet sodas and reduced-calorie frozen meals. “I think consumers are changing their views on weight management from ‘reduce calories’ to ‘nutritious foods’,” he said. Special K can “absolutely meet that criteria…It’s a very nutrient-dense food form. But we haven’t been communicating it that way. So we are increasing our communication more down that path as opposed to reduce calories.” Read more

Ben & Jerry’s Goes Rogue on GMOs

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Here’s a very interesting report on some internal conflict within the massive conglomerate we call Unilever: seems that the company and one of its most valued properties disagree on the issue of genetically modified organisms in food.

Matthew Boyle of Bloomberg reports that, while Ben & Jerry’s strongly supports its home state’s new law requiring GMO foods to be labeled as such, Unilever does not. Shocking, we know.

Yet Unilever allows the ice cream kings to be outspoken in their advocacy because, as an analyst tells Bloomberg:

“I don’t think they will ever want the potentially massive negative PR of trying to silence B&J.”

Well, yeah.

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Restaurants With ‘Xtreme’ Menu Items Are Doing Long-Term Damage (To Their Business)


The Center for Science in the Public Interest has released its 2014 Xtreme Eating Awards and topping the list with a 3,540 calorie meal consisting of a “Monster” double burger and milkshake with a bottomless order of fries is Red Robin.

“[I]t’s the ‘single unhealthiest’ meal the group could find on more than 200 chain restaurant menus it reviewed…” says USA Today.

Also on the list three times is The Cheesecake Factory. And there’s Chevys Tex Mex with a combo plate, a seafood platter from Joe’s Crab Shack, ribs from Famous Dave’s and a deep-dish ranch pizza from BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse.

Restaurants appearing on the list that spoke with the newspaper counter that there are low-calorie options on their menu for those that want them. Red Robin’s SVP and CMO, Denny Marie Post, says that colossal meal is a mixture of their menu’s “most indulgent” items.

All of this might be true, but that’s not what’s getting the media attention. These chains are making a name for themselves for having the most fattening and unhealthy dishes. That can have a negative long-term effect.

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Russia Seeks to Ban McDonald’s as Retaliation Against the U.S.

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Another day in downtown Kiev, nyet?

McDonald’s is no stranger to the headlines of PRNewser. In fact, we even dedicated a story tag after the repeat bad news: #McFail. However, bad brand news out of Russia involving the home of the Clown isn’t their fault…this time.

That said, Mr. Gorbachev may want to re-erect that wall, because the Cold War has returned: Russia wants to ban McDonald’s. As in, everywhere in the country.

Can’t we talk a little, Putin? I mean, for the children?

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With Drought Measures Becoming More Strict, Nestle Continues California Water Bottling

arrowheadNestle is kicking up controversy with its continued water bottling operations despite a drought that is so severe, it has prompted water restrictions.

Nestle owns Arrowhead Mountain Spring Water, which is sourced from a spring  Millard Canyon, CA. Nestle Pure Life is another one of its brands, both of which are bottled on a Native American reservation in the state.

In January, Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency because of water shortages. On Tuesday, water regulators approved fines of $500 for things like watering lawns and washing cars. The measures were put in place after the governor announced he wanted to reduce water usage by 20 percent and that goal hadn’t been achieved. The drought has been going on for three years. Other measures will be considered if water usage still isn’t reduced.

Reservations are considered sovereign states that don’t have to follow state regulations. But knowing the dire situation that the state is in, should Nestle do something?

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Crumbs Rises From The Ashes to Sell Cupcakes (And Other Stuff) For Another Day

lemonisLast week we were talking about the demise of Crumbs. Today, we’re talking about its resurrection, with some help from Dippin’ Dots.

Word is the cupcake company will be sold to an investor group that will include Marcus Lemonis, CNBC host (right), and Fischer Enterprises, owner of Dippin’ Dots.

Many people said that Crumbs’ biggest problem was the fact that it hitched its wagon exclusively to a food trend that eventually died out. By the sound of the details that have been revealed so far, the company plans to change that. The addition of these new leaders will also solve some of the marketing challenges that the company clearly had.

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